Cheesy Chilli Muffins

A little while ago I took a trip to Gringa Dairy, a converted railway arch down in  Peckham, where owner Kristen hand-makes authentic Mexican style cheese. A woman of boundless enthusiasm, Kristen makes three cheese Queso Fresco, Queso Chihuahua and the intricately tied Queso Oaxaca. All three are beautiful, delicious cheeses and we actually use her Queso Chihuahua at The Cheese Truck. We talked about Mexican food and she kindly gave me a jar of Gran Luchito chilli paste. When opened, this tiny little jar gave off the most incredible smoky, dried raisin and tobacco aromas.  This stuff is seriously delicious, I just had to bake with it.

Gringa dairy

The cheese making room inside Gringa Dairy, Peckham

When I think of baking and chillies together the first thing my mind is drawn to is cornbread. I love cornbread. There is something wonderfully savoury about the flavour of cornmeal that, having quite the opposite of a sweet-tooth, I adore. Cornbread always reminds me a particular holiday as a small child. We’d gone to an old fashioned dinner show; the show was Wild West themed and so we sat in a big, dusty hippodrome and I had my first taste of cornbread.

This recipe isn’t actually for cornbread however, although it is cornbread inspired, and as most things in my life at the moment involve cheese this recipe is no exception. I’d use a good strong cheddar for this recipe, the nicest you can afford, otherwise the muffins won’t have that pleasing cheddar tang. Devour these warm, as they come out of the oven, with butter or a little cream cheese. Buen provecho!

Gran Luchito and Cheddar Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

175g plain flour

115g fine cornmeal (polenta)

1/8 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

85g unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

2 medium eggs

250ml buttermilk

1 tbsp honey or Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Honey

140g mature cheddar cheese (grated), plus extra for topping

20g Gran Luchito Chilli Paste

Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Begin by sifting together the flour, salt, baking powder and cornmeal in a large bowl.

Next whisk together the eggs, melted butter, honey and buttermilk.

Gentle combine the wet and dry ingredients and add in the grated cheese. The key with muffins is not to over-mix the batter, try to combine everything in less than twelve strokes. It should look a bit rough and lumpy but this helps give the muffins their characteristic, uneven texture.

Finally, take the chilli paste and, using a knife, ripple it through batter. You want streaks of chilli running through the batter so again don’t mix too thoroughly.

Grease a muffin try or line it with muffin cases and evenly distribute the batter between the 12 cases and top with the extra grated cheddar.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25mins until the muffins are risen, golden and the cheese have melted.